Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
The Best Restaurant in the World
Les Chefs de France
Rich: While waiting outside of Chefs de France for our table, we watched a group of five women approach the très French host and slur, “Crème brûlée: where can we find them?” They had the rowdiness and random stagger of a bachelorette party. They were bombed. It was 2 p.m. on a Wednesday.
Caity: It was more like teachers at a bar after the last day of school. They did not have the youth of a bachelorette party. They told the poor maître d’ (an actual French maître d’) to talk, just so they could hear him talk. “We just want to hear you talk!” they screamed. Honors bio is DONE for the summer.
Also waiting to be seated: a man who I assume was a young veteran, missing both legs and one arm, and his beautiful (model-beautiful) wife. France, baby!
Rich: Our waitress, from northern France, reminded me of Shannen Doherty in the face. She was the opposite of Shannen Doherty in affect — passive as opposed to aggressive, but just as toxic. We’ll call her “Francine” to protect her identity.
Caity: By this point in our trip, I had succumbed to full on Disney-entitlement. The woman in Epcot Canada on our first night, who had been conditioned to “expect ‘Happy Birthday, here’s your table’”—that was me. I expected, “Bonjour mademoiselle, je m’appelle Lumiere, be our guest—oui, our guest—be our guest.” I expected a clock to spring to life and serve my soup. I expected the best table service of my life, like I was at the Queen’s wedding.
Rich: I expected our waitress to be none other than Angela Lansbury. Francine was no Angela Lansbury. Adding to the irritation was a small child at the table next to us, whose chair was pushed so far out, it was touching me. She might as well have just perched on my arm to eat her plain pasta with chicken fingers on top. What a monster.
Every time we went off book, which is to say asked Francine a question or did something that wasn’t just telling her what we wanted to order, she looked like a deer in headlights. Francine needs to take an improv class or two.
Caity: Even when we told her what we wanted, such as a Diet Coke, Francine could not make it happen. I ordered this item twice—the second time very casually, as if it had only just occurred to me I wanted a Diet Coke; as if I had not ordered and never received a Diet Coke a mere ten minutes prior. Francine nodded her terrified nod.
Rich: Her look was less a deer in headlights than a veal calf in headlights.
Caity: It was more the look you’d get if you asked a veal calf to engineer a more energy-efficient headlight.
Anyway. Never did get a Diet Coke. I guess technically she could still bring it to me at any point, for the rest of my life.
Rich: We received a baguette in a bag, which I thought was cute. Get it bag-uette? Bag-uette-up and give it to the people.
Caity: Cute blague-ette, Rich. (Means “joke.”) (Francine won’t tell you.) No offense, but Francine’s whole presence in that restaurant and my life at that point was clearly a blague played by God himself. But no offense!
Rich: Another early indication that the meal would prove befuddling to all came when I asked her about the meat content of the lobster bisque. In retrospect, OF COURSE, there was no pork in it. But people are always trying to slip in pork when you didn’t order it (see: every clam chowder in New York) and I just wanted to make sure. I was better off just guessing than asking Francine. For all I know, Francine was raised by lobsters.
Even though ordering it was as minor catastrophe, the lobster bisque turned out to be awesome. Perfect proportion of cream to stock. Sometimes lobster bisque is way too stock-y and you might as well have just chewed on a lobster shell. Not this one. This was like a bowl of butter that a lobster waded through a few times. Thanks for swimming by, friend.
Caity: One thing I learned during our tour of the world is how long I can go without a hamburger. The answer is: three days. By the time we made it to France, I was starving for one. I wanted a hamburger badly, but I knew that it was not the Frenchest move. (Put my cheeseburger on a bed of plain pasta, s’il vous plait.)
I asked Francine what she would recommend: The burger, or the Quiche Lorraine. After a few moments of nervous silence, she answered: “The Quiche Lorraine. It’s more traditional.” Fine, Francine. FINE.
I don’t think it even mattered what I ordered. Francine was going to bring me whatever she damn well chose.
As part of my prix-fixe deal, I selected an onion soup. It had all the ingredients of an onion soup. Were they cooked all the way through? Many were! The onions were not, but many of the other ingredients were.
Rich: Ah, the juicy crunch of uncooked onions. Nature’s soup.
Along with our soups, Francine brought most of our drinks (a St. Germain cocktail for me and a sweet Kir au Cassis with black currant liqueur for you). I immediately got set to take a picture of them, as Francine watched apprehensively. Then she asked, “Do you want me to take a picture?” No, Francine, we’re FOODIES. You can’t do a better job than I’m going to do.
Caity: Just to be very clear: In no way did any of your actions suggest you wanted her to take a picture. She might as well have asked if I wanted her to wear my eyeglasses.
Rich: Now we have sex? NO, Francine. GO BACK TO YOUR VEAL BOX. Also, hurry up. We were at Chefs de France for an hour before we got our meal. It wasn’t that crowded. Francine was just messing with us. Those two, I don’t like.
Caity: As we were finishing up our soup course, I looked out the large picture window onto the Paris street and saw the veteran from the lobby rolling his wheelchair away, toward Morocco.
While you were in the bathroom—just as I was scribbling a note in my notebook about how long the food was taking—Francine came over and offered an excuse for the delay, which made me think she had been watching me the whole time. “The fish...” she began. “It takes a long time to....make good.” Just what you love to hear at a restaurant.
Rich: The fish, it is very hard to kill. I keep holding it under the water, but it will not drown!
Caity: Imagine a chest of drawers bursting into the forbidden West Wing to tell Belle that. Believe me, we are trying our best in the kitchen to make this food good, but it’s gonna take a long, long time to come anywhere close. It’s chaos back there.
Rich: Do you want me to take a picture of myself preparing the fish?
The fish was not great, by the way!!!!
Caity: They didn’t have enough time!
Rich: I had the Mahi-Mahi sandwich, pommes frites et sauce tartare. The mahi wasn’t breaded. It was, like, broiled and served on focaccia with roasted peppers. It tasted improvised, and by now we all know that Francine is not very quick on her feet. The fries were O.K.
Caity: Your meal looked odd. The bread seemed pointless—like it was just their way of forcing you to eat bread for no reason. It was not really a sandwich. It was fish with mandatory bread.
Rich: Far be it from me to say no to bread, but in this case I should have. The “bun” was overcompensating. The fish: underwhelming.
Caity: My Quiche Lorraine (Famous Ham and Cheese Quiche) was traditionnelle in the sense it could have been made 50 years ago and it would have tasted the same. It was fine. Warm quiche mush. To my eternal regret, it was served with a small side salad. The salad was O.K. But it was no fries.
Rich: Did you have any of mine? Did I remember to offer them? Pardon, madame, if I didn’t. I was flustered. I blame Francine.
Caity: Yes, I had a couple, but the amount they gave you was so small that it wouldn’t have satisfied me even after eating a full meal. They weren’t even served on top of a bed of plain pasta, in the French style.
Rich: You can always half at least half of my fries! I shouldn’t be eating fries! Better to give them away than to eat them!
Caity: I wish you had made that rule clear on Day 1 of the trip. I would have done everything differently.
Unfortunately for Francine, after we finished our entrees it was time for dessert, which required returning to our table and speaking to us once more. Is it safe to say Francine had the loosest grasp of English of anyone we encountered in the large World/small world of Disney? Or, if not the loosest grasp, at least the least confidence in her hold?
Rich: Yeah, I mean, if we’re being generous that was the source of the problem. If we’re being real, she’s got a touch of evil.
Caity: I don’t think we said anything that would be unusual in a restaurant setting. I had to memorize more complicated restaurant dialogues for my elementary school French class. There is no fucking way Francine could have directed us to the library or nearest discotheque. Not in a million years.
Rich: I bet Francine doesn’t even know what “Garcon means boy” means. I couldn’t with dessert, but you apparently could and you did: Fresh strawberry and cream cake with raspberry sauce and strawberry sorbet. You asked Francine what she thought of it and she said, “Yes! You will love it.”
Caity: Don’t fucking lie to me, Francine.
Rich: She had never sounded more confident. See what friendship can do?
Caity: Francine pretending she knows me well enough to know what I will love, like she raised me. You weren’t even around when I was growing up, Francine.
Rich: Maybe it was mind control. The power of positive thinking. Maybe Francine was deploying The Secret to help us have a better time.
Caity: The strawberry and cream cake was fine.
Rich: I didn’t love it. But then, she never said that I would.
Caity: Basically, if France is anything like Epcot France my advice is: avoid it.
Rich: On my way to the men’s room, I heard a child vomiting wrath in the women’s room. And then a stocky guy at the urinal told me that he’d just eaten enough for 10 people. Welcome to my life, buddy. It was nice to realize that connecting with strangers was still possible.
Caity: To this point, you may feel that we have been overly harsh on Francine, a queer little French girl, raised in an all girls school by Miss Clavelle. But what happened next was truly the most bizarre and uncomfortable waiter interaction of my life.
Francine brought over our check. I paid. She gave me a receipt. And then she stood directly next to me, looking down at the check, while she waited for me to fill in the tip.
I planned on tipping Francine handsomely despite absolutely everything that happened, because, at the end of the day, someone has to work in the mid-priced restaurant in Epcot France and I’m glad it’s not me. But this made me feel really uncomfortable—
Rich: Tip it to MAH FACE. – Francine
Caity: —So I dilly dallied. I did some calculations.
Caity: I sipped my water (not Diet Coke). I talked to Rich.
Eventually, Francine turned away, and pretended to busy herself at the table directly across from ours—except there was nothing to do there. That table was pristine; ready for its next victims. She just...placed her hands on it, I guess.
Her eyes off me at last, I placed the check down on our table (I had been cradling it in my lap like a new kitten) and began to fill in the tip. Francine whipped around: “It’s finished?”
No, Francine. It is not finished. Please, please, please leave my family (me and my platonic friend Rich) alone.
Finally, it was finished, and Francine flew to our table like gargoyle from a church awning at the first stroke of midnight.
Rich: As we gathered our belongings, Francine told us to have a good day and we responded, “You too.” Her response was to say, “Thank you,” and then awkwardly motion outside to...the weather? WHAT DO YOU MEAN ALWAYS, Francine?!
Caity: Look at God’s creation. He made this tiny France. C’est magnifique. Or, anyway, c’est...ici.
A wise friend named Francine once said to me that it takes time to make something good. I would say that our extended visit with Francine disproved her theory.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: How do you say in French...? NO.
Caity: Only if I was in the area and happened to receive word that my Diet Coke was ready.
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: Nope. Romance is the one thing that Disney failed to create in its otherwise picture perfect replica of the French experience.
Caity: No. Les Chefs de France combines the snootiness of Paris with the general ineptitude of Florida. If you point that out on a first date, you look like a jerk. But, if you don’t point it out, you look like a rube who has never been to a nice restaurant and doesn’t understand the ways in which this one falls short.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: Yes. Francine would never in a million years suspect ANYTHING regarding your proclivities or the world in general.
Caity: Yes. The maître d’ podium seems like a good place to meet swingers. It’s also a good place to force a French college student to say “crème brûlée just so you can get your rocks off.
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
Rich: Yes. The reception is so ice cold he’d fit right in.
Caity: I guess so. Francine’s interactions with us were indicative of a frozen corpse brought herky-jerkily back to life, so maybe he could get a job there.